The Wilderness set to take the stage at Spring Reverb

By Emily Coppella

The Wilderness is a band based in Kingston but has spent the last few months on the road, rocking audiences with performances that Nick Lennox (saxophones, percussion, and vocals) describes as “big, orchestrated, tight, driving, catchy, and powerful.”

This June, the band returns to Kingston to headline a show for Spring Reverb. The four-day exhibition will showcase the Kingston music scene; it’s jam-packed with concerts, panels, and special guest talks. Over the last two years, The Wilderness has had a lot of time to craft their unique sound, and they’re stoked to bring it all back home on June 4 with a performance at The Ale House. We chatted with band members Nick and Jonas Lewis-Anthony (vocals and guitar), ahead of the much-anticipated performance.

In addition to Jonas and Nick, the band includes Karl Tombak (bass), Henry Lawrence (drums and vocals), and Liam Neale (keys and percussion). While none of the members were born in Kingston, they all proudly claim it as their adopted hometown. The band formed in 2015 at an open mic night that Jonas was hosting at Musiikki Café. A snowstorm was raging; barely anyone showed up, but the storm blew in Karl, Henry, and Sacha Lansky (the band’s former lead guitarist). Jonas recounts the jam session they had that night:

“I was desperate to start a band with some people and I was like, ‘Well, that went pretty well, so let’s do it.’ The next day we found ourselves in a basement on Rideau Street, trying to work out some tunes. That iteration of the band was almost seven years ago. For the last five years now we’ve been playing as a six-piece. Nick and Liam joined the band around 2017 and we just knew them from around the local music scene…so, we just kind of absorbed people over the years.”

Since that start, the band has released an independent EP, Seminary Road, in 2018, along with numerous singles. The band was named Indie Week Best Emerging Artist in 2019. Their debut LP, Until Tomorrow, and live EP Live at the Bathouse were both released in 2020. And they are set to release a new EP later this year.

Listen to a Wilderness song and you might be surprised by the combination of folk-focused lyrics and rock melodies. Their full orchestration performances are ferocious, in part due to the eclectic mix of musical talent each band member brings. Nick says their variety of musical backgrounds is an asset:

“Jonas is a phenomenal lyricist. I am a trained music teacher, so if there’s any questions about what chord we should go to, I’ve got boatloads of answers. Liam is phenomenal with textures and knows how to get the coolest sounds. Henry is rhythmically intricate, and he comes up with parts that are just nuts. Karl is a well-rounded songwriter; the stuff that he writes has a good melody, it’s got good lyrics, and it’s responsive to the rest of the band. So, putting all of us together in a room becomes this dance, this dialogue: ‘How much can we gain from each other and how can we take this one idea – that might be Karl’s or Jonas’s or mine – and keep it what it is but also let it be what it could be?’ That’s the hard part, and when we do it well, it turns out beautifully.”

Often, Jonas brings what he calls a “meat and potatoes” draft of a song to the band and then the team works on shaping it together. They’re all equal shareholders in the songwriting, even if Jonas writes the lyrics. Royalties are split amongst them, and they’ve learned the value of being themselves—together.


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The band has played nearly 500 shows across Canada and the U.S. But there’s something unique about performing in Kingston. Not only is the local music scene busy, it’s also supportive and welcoming. Nick calls attention to Kingston’s musical legacy:

“We’re kind of standing on the shoulder of giants, following in the footsteps of arguably Kingston’s biggest export: rock bands. There’s a legendary canon of musicians from here: The Tragically Hip, The Glorious Sons, Blue Rodeo, The Headstones. There are all these people who have blazed the trail that we’re trying to shoot for. The bar is high. We’re just out there trying to be the best we can anywhere, but when we’re in Kingston, it’s a real privilege because we get to feel at home.”

Needless to say, The Wilderness members are looking forward to being a part of Spring Reverb. A huge hometown show like this one gives them the opportunity to connect with old friends, meet new people, and experience one of the most loving and supporting crowds on their own turf.

To continue doing what they love, each member has a part- or full-time job beyond the band. They re-invest all the band’s revenue back into it. This allows them to offer great quality merch, make tour-van payments, and compensate their crew. But Jonas says their dedication has already paid off, although he has had occasion to remind himself of their good fortune. After a post-performance, sleepless night in a basement bar in Sudbury, and a sweltering day spent loading heavy equipment into their van, Jonas was feeling a bit grumpy:

“I said to myself, ‘Jonas, you are literally living your dream right now. Have you any idea how your former self would have killed to be in the position that you are in right now? You have a van, you have all of this equipment, you’re doing it with your best friends, you have people helping you, and you’re going to play a show tonight to a couple hundred people in Toronto—which isn’t even a city you’re from.’ Any time we do anything, I feel like we’ve made it. Even if we don’t end up selling out arenas, we don’t end up getting a record deal, and we don’t end up making a single dime off of this, I would have still had seven years of living my life the exact way I wanted to, with the exact people I wanted to, and living a childhood fantasy.”

The Wilderness is looking forward to future performances, writing sessions, and moments that Nick says are “just a little bit cooler than the last one.”

The Wilderness play The Ale House on June 4, supported by Long Range Hustle, Keaton, and Hinterwood.